The game improves cognitive functioning in older players because it requires multitasking and extensive use of brain-based skills.
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Researchers from North Carolina State University's Gains Through Gaming laboratory have found that playing the massive multiplayer online video game World of Warcraft (WoW) appeared to boost cognitive functioning in older adults. The researchers hypothesized that playing a cognitively complex game such as WoW, which requires multitasking and extensive use of a number of cognitive skills such as map reading, planning, and tracking of multiple status indicators, could boost the cognitive performance of the elderly.
The study, which is available online as a corrected proof at the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, initially examined the spatial ability, memory, and focus of adults aged 60 to 77, to set a baseline. An intervention group of 20 adults then played WoW for roughly 14 hours over the course of two weeks, while a control group of 19 adults played no WoW over the two weeks. At the end of the two weeks both groups were re-tested for cognitive functioning. Ultimately the researchers observed a greater cognitive improvement in the intervention group when compared with the controls.